The Presbyterian Basement

The early history of Presentation College San Fernando begins in 1930, when a small school called St. Benedict’s was established in a lowly basement beneath the San Fernando Presbytery at Harris Promenade This was the first Catholic Secondary school in South Trinidad, and was set up in response to the requests of the Catholic population as well as many non-Catholic residents there. After repeated petitions to the Archbishop of Port of Spain, the latter directed the Benedictine Fathers of Mount St Benedict to start the college as a diocesan institute. On March 31 1930, the legacy began.

Under the spiritual directorship of Rev. Fr. Sebastian Weber, OSB and a teaching staff of two Mr. Vincent Ferrer and Mr. Mitchell.

St. Benedict’s opened with thirty two students on its roll, including such names as Gerard Robert Ken and Harvey Montano, Ralphie Gillezeau, the Espinet brothers, the Hart brothers (Edmund and Edwin), Steve Bennett, Elwin Maingot and Rex Latour. In November of the same year the Benedictine Fathers purchased the Colony Buildings and grounds at La Pique, nestled at the foothills of the San Fernando Hill. This six acre site was the former residence of the Governor during his visits to South Trinidad and cost some 5000 pounds to acquire.

The Colony House-Later known as the Old Chapel

Relocation (1931-1933)

Rev. Fr. Odilo van Tongeren, OSB, returning from Downside Abbey, England, took up duties as Principal of the new St. Benedict’s College. It was his keen foresight and business sense that led to the purchase of the Colony buildings and surrounding grounds, and the buildings were refitted with a recreation hall, a library, and eight classrooms capable of holding some 190 students. The College was soon settled comfortably in its new home.

During Fr. Odilo’s regime, Mr. H. N. S. McDavid joined the staff as did Churchill Johnson, R. M. Hercules, Albert Rigsby, and Fr. Wilfred Broens, OSB. Under his principalship, too, the College made its first attempt at the Cambridge Local examinations, and both candidates– Kenneth Lamsee and Ben Winchester– passed. It was during this time too that the College made the first tentative steps towards obtaining government recognition and aid.

Rev. Fr. Odilo, O.S.B

College Grounds (1933-1934)

It was the Rev. Fr. Placide Ganteaumme OSB who during his short two years as College Principal and with characteristic grit and determination, made the first assault on San Fernando Hill. Armed with pick and shovel, he began the grueling task of manually converting the quarry into a playground fit for students. It was indeed inspiring to see principal staff and students all working together on this project.

This period must also be remembered for the annual bus outings to Mount St. Benedict on the feast of the patron saint, the additions to the staff of Rev. Fr. Maurus Maingot, OSB Rolando Corbie, Harold Araujo and Smokie Ford. It was during this period also that the College realised its first successes in the School Certificate examinations – Gerald de Verteuil, Clive Evans, Rex Latour, Gerard Montano and Ben Winchester (who placed fifth in the island).

Grand Scale Developments (1934-1939)

This was the era of Fr Ludger Nauer, OSB, and was characterised by lofty but practical schemes some of which materialised in his own day, while others were shelved on the outbreak of the war. He set up the first Science Laboratory, which was formally opened by Lady Fletcher, wife of the then Governor of Trinidad, and which was operated by Cecil Lai Fook and later by Eugene Bertrand.

Fr. Ludger saw to the building of the first Chapel, introduced a College Song, and published in Niarch of 1936 the only St. Benedict’s College magazine. It was during this period that the St. Benedict’s Home, a boarding house, was built. According to the 1936 magazine, “the boarding house was intended mainly for boys whose parents reside away from San Fernando. The catering is done by a capable lady, whilst the Benedictine Fathers are responsible for the disciplinary part of the Homet’. Monthly boarding fees of $20 and tuition fees of $16 helped the College finances.

The period saw the College football XI win the SAFA Second League for the Leiba Cup in 1934 it saw Roy Seon win a place on the SAFA forward line, the first College student to play representative football. It also saw its first Cantata and other concerts organised by Mr. Churchill Johnston, a tour to St. Vincent in 1937 and another to British Guiana in 1939, and several open air boxing tournaments. Cricket coaching sessions during this time by ex-international cricketer George John and BG Intercolonial cricketer, Chatterpaul Persad, would later realise results in the form of the invitation of several of our College players to the trials of Intercolonial cricket.

Additions to the teaching staff were J.E. Borneo, Ken Mungal, F.A. Hoyos, E. Lowe, Cecil Lai Fook, Ben Winchester, Mrs. Andre, and Rev. Fr. Boniface OSB This period saw Ramnath(Ram) as the first tull time member of the grounds Club conducted by Mr. Hoyos.

War Years and Immediate Post-War period

This was the regime of Fr. Boniface, which saw the construction in 1945 of what is now affectionately known as the “Old Block’, the organisation of a Sea Scouts group and construction of a Boat Club, the introduction of the Prefect system (with Jim Paul and Terrence Greteau as the first Head Prefects), the start of the Legion of Mary, and the winning of the Cow and Gate Cup, emblem of supermacy in Intercollegiate football in Trinidad.

It was at this time that Mr. Mac, with the aid of Mr. Page, Captain of the Fleet-Air-Arm Football Xl, began to introduce the third back method of play in the College team which was then skippered by Jim Paul. Leon Leacock had already become famous as the youngest player ever to play representative in Trinidad when he was selected to represent the SAFA at the age of fourteen. John Streetly had begun to reveal his penchant for mountain-climbing by numerous assaults on the San Fernando Peak via the most inaccessible routes.

Rev. Fr. Willibrord Vonk, OSB joined the staff during this time, as well as Ralph Boland, Aubrey Garcia and Victor de Castro.

Products of St. Benedict’s

Some of the well known graduates of St. Benedict’s include Bishop John Mendes, Mr. Robert MontanoQusinessman and founder of the South Chamber of commerce), Mr. Clyde Boyce, Mr. Carl Hinds, Mr. Cyril Greenidge, Dr. Cuthbert Joseph (former Minister of Education), Mr Leon Leacock, and Mr. Van Arden Stephen Stewart (former Principal of Queen’s Royal College).

St. Benedict's House
The College at the foot of San Fernando Hill
College First Xl (1934-1935)
St. Benedict's College
Upper School (1935-1936)
L-R: Back Row: Bros. Bartholomew Browne, Ignatius Flahive, Cletus Looney, Fidelis, Anselm O'Callaghan, Fergus Griffin. Front Row: Bros. Dustan Curtin, Alphonso Mitchell S.G., Liam Dromey
L-R:Back Row: Bros. Anthony, Lawerence, Noel de Lellis. Front Row: Bros. Fergus, Bartholomew, Fr. Conway, Bro. Anselm

The Presentation Takeover (1948)

Presentation Brothers, Livinus Kelly – who became the first superior and Principal (1948-1952) – Anseim O’Callaghan Fergus Griffin and Ignatius Flahive arrived in Trinidad in December 1947. Fr. Placid Ganteaume, OSB officially handed over the College of St. Benedict’s on January 12, 1948. Special tribute must be paid to H.N.S. McDavid, who lived next door on Carib Street. He was the main facilitator in the smooth change from St. Benedict’s to Presentation and was to make a fantastic impact on the College. There were some 300 students in St. Benedict’s at the end of December 1947. However, Presentation opened with 400 students in 1948 due to the new administration and some advertising done by Bro. Livinus.

It is noteworthy that because of expenses, the Brothers paid themselves no salaries for the first three years. At that time there was only third of the buildings and facilities that we see today. Students were G.C.E. ‘A’ Level examinations for the first time in 1950 and the first distinctions at this level were in 1952.Bro. Kelly, the first Principal of Presentation College, immediately got down to the task of taking charge of the school. He worked diligently at repairing and maintaining the physical plant made significant changes to the curriculum and helped to place in jobs those students who were either intellectually disadvantaged, or were just Hot interested In matters of an academic nature. He also introduced a Special Stream catered to the highly intelligent Students. This would lead to the outstanding academic successes for which the College became known.

It was also during Bro. Kelly’s administration that the House System was introduced to the College. It developed a keen sense of competition while at the same time promoting team work and loyalty to a group. With the House System at its base, a very successful intra-college league was established, both for football and cricket, and College teams improved their performances remarkably.

Brother Fergus
Brother Lawrence
View of recently renovated Old Block, 1963
Bro. Jerome and Contrator at Union Hall, 1966
Quarrying operation for 6th Form Block, 1968
The College as seen from Coffee Street today

EXPANSION

In 1956 during the Principalship of Bro. Bartholomew Browne a new wing, the New Block was constructed – this is still the most imposing of all the buildings constructed to date. It was officially opened on May 2, 1956, by His Grace, the Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan, and the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago, Sir Edward Betham Beetham. This building now a landmark in San Fernando, dominates lower Coffee Street, and can be seen from a considerable distance. In 1996 another expansion programme was started under the Principalship of Bro. Jerome Kelly. Sixth Form facilities were expanded and developed. A library was provided, new washrooms and toilets were also built and on an eight acre piece of land at Union Hall the College Grounds was developed.

PRINCIPALS (1948-1975)

Irish Presentation Brothers who served as Principals were:
Bro. Livinus Kelly (1948–52)
Bro. Liam Dromey (1952–53)
Bro. Bartholomew Browne (1953–56)
Bro. Macartan Sheehy (1956–57)
Bro. Jerome Kelly (1957–69)
Bro. Anselm O’Callaghan (1969–71)
Bro. Matthew Feheney (1971–75)
Bro. Michael Samuel (1975–2002)
Mr. Simon Rostant (2002-2003)
Mr. Errol Jaikaransingh (2003–2013)
Mr. Dexter Mitchell (2013–present)

The daily Morning Assembly which has become a feature of College life, and to which many past students refer, was introduced by Bro. Matthew Feheney. He was very interested in music himself and encouraged the formation of an ensemble as a backup for the hymns sung at Assembly.

First Local Principal (1975)

Bro Michael Samuel became the first local principal in 1975 Under his principalship the school saw a shift away from an emphasis on scholarships to a greater concern on nurturing and maintaining a close family spirit. Every student was encouraged to contribute to the corporate spirit of the College and their individual talents were recognised as far as this was possible.

An ambitious building and renovation programme was started which included the construction of the present Library and College Chapel, a second Lawn Tennis court, a squash court, a Basketball court, a further extension of the 61h Form Block, a steel Pan Shed, a spacious Music Room, the extension and air conditioning of the Staff Room and the creation of the Deans’ Offices and an Office for the Vice Principal. The Audio Visual Room boasts equipment second to none in the island and a forty Station Language Laboratory was acquired from Norway and installed. The College also boasts of a Computer Room with 16 stations (though there is always a need for upgrading of equipment). The Office of the Principal and the Secretary’s Office were expanded to provide room for the additional personnel that had become necessary with the expansion of the school population from 680 to 840 students The College has started the construction of a 25m swimming pool and a smaller 10m treading pool in what is known as the quarry area to the East of the present playing field at Carib Street. The name of the pool will be “The St. Michael’s Swimming Pool”. It is expected to be opened in 1998. Other development projects include the construction of a Cafeteria Block parallel to the Old Block, the upgrading of toilet facilities and the expansion and development of the Administrative Offices and Lobby.

The College as seen from Carib Street today
L-R: Bros. Ligouri, De Lellis, Jerome